"I'm a parent. I haven't got the luxury of principles."
Benjamin Martin has decided to remain loyal to the British. He want's no part of the revolution, preferring to live in peace on his farm. So, of course, the revolution comes to him, and forces him to get involved. One of his sons is killed in front of him, and another is hauled away to be hanged, so he invents guerilla warfare and wipes out a bunch of British solders. This results in him becoming a folk hero of sorts, and a perpetual thorn in the side of the Brits.
The most surprising thing about The Patriot is the nearly complete lack of surprises. Event "A" happens, and that makes event "B" happen, and that fits into the inevitable slot "C", and on until you hit ZZZZ. You can almost hear the script writer saying "Hey, we're getting low pathos. Time to kill another one of his kids so he gets pissed again!" This gives it a contrived, forced feel, as if it had been put together with a blueprint instead of a script.
It could also have used a bit more humor. It appears to be fashioned after Braveheart, but while Braveheart was gruesome and bloody, the tension was cut with plenty of funny lines, as well as a few unexpected twists. The Patriot is somber, almost humorless, and the one or two suprises in it are too minor to be impressive. The few funny bits provide some relief from the contrived tension, but there are too few of them and they're too far apart. So is the beginning and the end of this movie. Cutting out a half hour or so would have improved it.
Gibson turns in a good performance, and the sets and the gore are impressive, but the brutality of the Brits comes across as unbelievable, and Mel's character is just too good to be true. It's not a bad rental, just don't expect it to live up to it's hype.
© 2001 Dave Hitt